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Adaptive data governance: enablement vs. control

Data governance is critical for organizations to manage their data assets effectively, ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and derive insights that drive business growth and innovation. Most leadership teams have heard of data governance, and some have even implemented their own frameworks. Too often, these are traditional structures that rely on rigid and prescriptive policies and procedures.

Frameworks like these leave businesses users feeling disinclined to engage with governance and as a result, these efforts are under-utilized. This begs the question – why waste time and resources collecting, storing and managing data at all?

Consider the potential benefits gained from enabling business users to easily access and weave data together to tackle the biggest challenges. How can organizations create a culture that supports and encourages data usage while ensuring proper data protection?

Adaptive data governance

At the heart of data governance lies a fundamental tension between control and enablement. Control mechanisms are essential to safeguard the integrity, confidentiality and availability of data while enablement initiatives are crucial to unlocking the full potential of data and promoting a data-driven culture.

Instead of choosing between enablement or control, adaptive data management takes an approach that emphasizes flexibility, agility and responsiveness in the face of changing business needs, regulatory requirements and technological advancements. Unlike traditional data governance frameworks, adaptive data governance prioritizes collaboration, experimentation and continuous improvement.

Adaptive data governance requires a foundational shift in mindset. Business leaders must invest in a continuous cycle of planning, executing, monitoring and adjusting data governance practices to align with evolving business priorities and regulatory requirements.

The recognition that data is a dynamic and evolving fabric of information that requires a dynamic and evolving governance model that promotes stitching data together. Adaptive data governance frameworks focus on building a culture of data-driven decision-making and innovation, where data is seen as a strategic asset. Organizations that don’t shift their mindset risk falling behind and losing their competitive advantage.

Enablement vs. control

Organizations should exercise a mix of control and enablement within an adaptive data governance framework. While these may seem like opposing concepts, they are both essential components of a framework that seeks to balance data security and privacy with data-driven insights and value creation.


  • Control represents the establishment of policies, procedures and mechanisms to manage and regulate the use of data. This involves defining rules and restrictions around data access, usage, storage and disposal to ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, mitigate risks and safeguard the integrity, confidentiality and availability of data.
  • Data is a valuable asset that can be subject to misuse, theft or loss if not managed properly. Implementing control mechanisms such as data classification, access controls and encryption helps organizations to reduce the risk of data breaches, non-compliance and reputational damage. Moreover, control helps ensure the accuracy, completeness and consistency of data, which is critical for making informed business decisions and avoiding costly errors. By promoting transparency and accountability in data management, control allows companies to track and monitor data usage, identify potential issues and take corrective actions to leverage the full potential of their data.


  • In contrast to control, enablement seeks to create an environment that encourages the strategic and effective use of a data mesh to achieve business objectives. This entails providing access to high-quality and trustworthy data, promoting data literacy and skill-building and fostering collaboration and innovation across different teams and departments.
  • Enabling data usage across different domain teams promotes innovation, collaboration and agility in decision-making, leading to more informed and effective business outcomes. By providing access to high-quality and trustworthy data, organizations can foster a data-driven culture that empowers employees at all levels to leverage data for insights, problem-solving and continuous improvement. Data literacy and skill-building enables employees to develop new competencies and use data more effectively in their work, unlocking the full potential of an organization’s data and deriving greater value from it.

Overall, an adaptive data governance framework flexes between enablement and control to create an environment that supports the strategic and effective use of data.

Making the organizational culture shift

To effectively implement an adaptive data governance framework, organizations need to start with the culture. Employees at all levels must be empowered to use data effectively to weave together solutions as part of their work. Continuous learning and improvement must be encouraged. This is not an IT only effort; it requires the collaboration of multiple stakeholders across different domains and functions, as well as engaged leadership to champion change.

Stakeholders must lead in promoting data literacy and skill-building across their organization. Workshops, training resources, and effective standards help define what guardrails need to be in place to preserve data integrity while still promoting active data usage across the organization.

The framework must be flexible and scalable to changing business and regulatory requirements. Policies and procedures must be designed with this in mind, balancing the standards of data management with a willingness to adapt. Control mechanisms need to be strong enough to protect sensitive data, but accessible enough to support day-to-day work processes. In this framework, controls work to drive enablement and efficiency across workstreams.

Although implementing an adaptive data governance framework starts with people, it also requires investing in the right technology infrastructure to support a dynamic and evolving adaptive data governance model.

It’s never too late to begin implementing an adaptive data governance program, regardless of the size or data maturity level of your organization. It requires a holistic and collaborative approach of aligning people, processes and technology to achieve your organization's overall data management objectives.

How we can help

At Baker Tilly Digital, we work to help organizations achieve more value from their data by combining business strategy, innovative approaches and technology to implement effective data governance programs. Our chief data and analytics officer CDAO advisory services can provide the guided support needed to champion this change throughout your organization. To learn more about shifting your organization into a more data-driven culture, contact one of our professionals.

Chris Wagner
Advisor discusses financial results with client
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